Scollay, Mercy

“my heart bleeding”

At the time of his death in the battle of Breed’s Hill (June 17, 1775), Dr. Joseph Warren was engaged to Mercy Scollay. His wife, Elizabeth Hooten, had died in 1772, leaving him with four children who were now orphans. After the British evacuation of Boston in March 1776, people began to come back to the city. In the following letter to her friend Mrs. Dix, at whose house in Worcester she had been staying, Mercy Scollay describes her feelings upon her return and how difficult it was to deal with the loss of her fiance.

Methinks I hear you say I give you joy Miss Scollay that you are again in the habitation of your parents [in Boston].—thank you my friend for your good wishes but Boston does not yet appear like my home—I go from place to place in the house as if I was searching for something with great eagerness, and then return with a dejected heart and disappointment seated in my brow—I look upon the wreck of my poor friends [Joseph Warren’s] furniture that papa [John Scollay] took into his care, with weeping eyes but check the hasty torrent, as quick as I can least I should be observed, and return to company with a smile on my face, but my heart bleeding—I see every moment faces that I know, but the one I would give the world to behold is not visable among the grope, and I turn from them disatisfyd—I have seen none that beheld the breathless clay [i.e. Joseph Warren’s corpse] and tho’ wondered at still doubt—Pity my weakness my Friend but don’t expose my folly none but you shall know my present thots and when I am confirmed in my hopes or fears you shall know.

The lady in “Lady in the Blue Dress,” by John Singleton Copley, is thought to be Mercy Scollay by Samuel Forman who makes a convincing case for his view in “A Valentine to Miss Mercy Scollay.” The portrait is at the Terra Foundation Museum in Chicago. Forman has written a new biography, Dr. Joseph Warren: The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty. The text of the letter at the Cambridge Historical Society can be found HERE.

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